Motivating your team, particularly when the going is tough, is hard work. In this extract from an interview with Errol Williamson in Spring 2015, I talk about how to get your team onside and motivate them to higher levels of performance.

EW:     In your book ‘How to Make Partner and Still Have a Life’, Part 4 of the book explores the real survival aspects of a career in the professional services, it talks about building client base, leading, managing and developing teams. Should the candidate or the aspiring partner adopt different speaking styles, depending on whether they’re giving a speech to a partner, to their team, or to a client? Should they adopt their style depending upon whom they’re speaking to or just have one general style?

HT:      You need to flex your style, and it’s not about whether you’re a team member, a client, or a partner, it’s about what the individual prefers. So it’s about understanding who the stakeholders are, who the ones are who can really take the decisions, what style they like, how they like to take in their information and adopt your style to them. A lot of people go might go ‘But isn’t it important to turn up and be myself?’ Well yes, but if it matters to you that you want to make stuff happen the best way you can do it is speak in somebody else’s language and using their style.

So, do I have any suggestions on how to construct a speech which inspires a team to improve performance? Whoa big question here! Do I have any suggestions? I think probably one of the things you mustn’t do is as follows:-

I was with one of my clients and they were going to a team away day. As they were doing the prep they decided to change the team away day because they’d started to have quite a huge amount of mistakes happening. One of the guys did the ‘We can’t let this happen. This is unacceptable, we can’t do that’, and that went down like a lead balloon, because what they hadn’t realised was this team were working their heart out, this team was actually under-resourced. So it was nothing to do with the team’s performance, nothing that a dressing-down would actually solve. It was more to do with the fact that they were short of resource and that was the problem, it was never going to be solved by giving them a criticising speech. So criticising speeches are out.

My suggestion is you need to get people to unite behind a common cause. That common cause could be if we keep our clients we do well, we’ll get more clients and we’ll all benefit from increased amount of clients. What are their motivators, what inspires them? Are they motivated by the quality of the job, are they motivated by status? Are they motivated by finance and material things? Are they motivated by having a collaborative team? So let’s take that example of mistakes are creeping in, how would you then do that? Let’s say people are motivated by doing a high quality job, order their technical qualities up to them let’s just say, ‘I know everyone here around the table is fully committed to doing the best quality job they can, and it’s a matter of personal pride that everything goes out of the door all present and correct. Now we’ve slipped on that recently, and I know that is not something we’re all willing to take lightly; so let’s put any blame aside and let’s really understand the root causes of that’.

Let’s put it into people quite materially focussed, so financial and numbers, ‘You know we’ve got this KPI target to hit guys, well look we’re slipping on it. The question is why are we slipping, because if we actually slip on this, this is going to affect the rest of our numbers, this is going to affect how profitable the firm is, and this is going to affect the amount of bonus that we can deliver to you all as a firm and also individuals as a bonus, as well as salary rises. We’ve got to get to grips with this. This is a no-blame conversation but let’s actually understand about what’s going on’.

So can you see the subtle difference? And to really phrase it as one of the key motivators of the people in front of you.

If you’re seeking partnership and you happen to be in the lift with one of the senior partners, what should you say and how should you say it? Well the things you shouldn’t do, you shouldn’t go up to them and say ‘I want to be partner what do I need to do?’ You mustn’t look desperate, people may not say it in so many words but it’s not far off. You’ve got to play it cool, you’ve got to play it very cool, and the best way to do it is to have a conversation with them, get known to them. That’s the best way at this stage with the senior partners, you want to be noticed for them and you want to be noticed for them in the right reasons. By going ‘I’m brilliant!’ isn’t going to work and you’re going to get labelled as arrogant, take interest in what they’re doing, consult their views on stuff, but the thing is don’t just ignore them chat to them. That’s the biggest thing that will actually make a difference.